Day 81. Vuonatjviken to Tsielekjokkstugan

Posted by: James on March 22, 2009

Distance 57km | Time 13.5hrs | Ascent 980m | Descent 780m

Day 81. The glorious sunrise an hour after leaving VuonatjvikenI got up at 0330 as I knew it would be a long day. Naturally it was still dark, the stars were out and it was very still but bitterly cold at around minus 20.

I had done Vuonatjviken as bit of a disservice yesterday by dismissing it as scooter culture. The couple who owned and ran the place, The Johannssens, turned out to be very good hosts. He had grown up on this homestead and knew every thing about the area. She did the catering and made a delicious smoked reindeer stew. She then gave me a bag of sweets for the next leg.

I recalculated the distance to Kvikkjokk after Mr Johannssen said it was nearer 80 km. Right enough it was 75 km. Too far for a day surely but I would try. It was 57 to Tsielekjokkstugan cabin as a fall back.

I eventually set off at 0500 when the light was just appearing. It was cold and my skis gripped firmly on the snow with yesterdays wax still on. I climbed very gently up through the pine forest crossing the occasional lake for an hour until the rich glow of the sunrise eventually bore the sun at 0600 exactly.

Day 81. The cold crisp morning was a fine time to cross the Arctic circleA little further I crossed the Arctic circle. This is the latitude where the midnight sun appears at the summer equinox. It remained very cold despite the sun. My route now turned east and followed the Arctic Circle east for 7 km. This was because the scooter tracks went this way as the summer route was too steep to follow. A necessary detour.

The route finally veered north again and climbed over a bare ridge. From the top of the ridge there was a tremendous view north with range upon range of bright white mountains rising from the dark forests.

It was a very gentle descent to two lakes strewn with a mass of small islets. Once the descent got a bit steep so I left the tracks and traversed across the side of Barturtte mountain. The generally hard icy surface had the occasional hidden trap where I would suddenly break through the surface into knee deep sugar. The result would be an undignified head plant as I ploughed head first into the snow. After a few of these I returned to the tracks before I broke my equipment or temper.

Day 81. Skiing across the Tjieggelvas lake with the mountains to the west of itA scooter passed me, the first of the day, and he stopped and chatted. He had been ice fishing with no luck. After the lakes there was a sometimes steep descent down through the birch, then spruce and finally the comforting pine to reach the large Tjieggelvas lake.

Day 81. The Swedish settlers village of Vasterfjall had a simple beautiful churchOn the lake the sun was working up a heat in the absolutely still day. I had to stop to strip down to my vest and ditch the hat and gloves. Something unthinkable a few hours before. It was a short hours ski along the northern tip of the lake under white mountains to reach the village of Vasterfjall.

This village was a Swedish settlers village, as opposed to a Lapp village. There were some 10 to 20 homesteads here. I could not see any sign of life but there was the smell of smoke. This village has no road and was probably just used in the summer, with the odd cabin rented out in the winter to scooter drivers doing some ice fishing. The village had a very quaint simple church and tower reflecting its simple Lutheran origins.

Day 81. En route from Vasterfjall to Parka the mountain of Raskka rises above the pinesI had lunch here at 1330 and realized that at just under halfway I would not reach Kvikkjokk today. The next leg was the 11 km to the Lapp village of Parka. My route took me along the bumpy scooter track through the pine forest initially. There is some almost undefinable quality about Scandinavian light and especially Arctic light. Today it was crystal clear, crisp and bright. The simple colours of the pine trees against the white snow were brilliant.

The scooter tracks skirted round to the south of the scattered cabins of Parka hamlet. Nobody was here at the moment and the Lapps would probably only use it in connection with reindeer herding and hunting in the autumn. The last hurdle of the day loomed in front of me as I was resigned to stay at Tsielekjokkstugan.

This hurdle was a long high ridge well above the treeline. It was a big climb for my tired legs. Due to the steepness of it I put on my skins and set off. It was not a bad as it looked and I got a second wind, probably caused by an urgency to get to the shelter now the sun was low in the sky and it promised to be a very cold night.

Day 81. Tarrekaise massif lies on the southern edge of Sarek national parkThe descent down the north side of the ridge was steep. Too steep for my tired legs to keep control so I walked a short half km section. Then it eased of for an easy 2 km run down to the cabin. I reached it as the setting sun dipped west below the Tarrekaise Massif illuminating it in a yellow glow. The temperature was plummeting.

Day 81. The rustic cabin at TsielekjokkstuganThe cabin was tiny. Just enough room for 2 sleeping benches and a tiny stove. Most importantly there was at least an evenings supply of wood scattered about. I lit a fire as my toes started to chill. Then fetched snow in the 4 battered pans of dubious cleanliness and closed the door.

Within an hour it was very cosy in the shelter and I could take of my duvet jacket and saw my socks were steaming dry in the torchlight. I had a dehydrated meal, a litre of hot cocoa and then got into my sleeping bag on a sleeping bench to write the blog. My eyes were way too heavy and I gave up after a few minutes and crashed out around 2030.

It had been a momentous day. I could not really fault any aspect of it. The scenery was wonderful, the weather was magnificent, there was the odd gem of settler and Lapp culture, and I ended up in a cosy cabin with enough wood. In addition it had been my longest day with 57 km.

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